Hey Guys! Welcome to our educational feature where we give a piece of inventory the once over so that you can learn more about the stories of the stuff that ends up in our store. Each “Once-Over” will have a video at the end to give you a visual of what we share in this article.
Charles Eastlake was an English architect from the late 19th century; his importance to furniture design can not be underestimated. In response to the over decorated and elaborate Victorian Era, Eastlake designed furniture that was simple in style and functional in use. The Eastlake period actually marks the end of the Victorian period and is often referred to as Late Victorian. This bold response was the catalyst that caused the pendulum of furniture style to swing to a simple straight line functional design, and the Eastlake name became a furniture design era. In England, the Eastlake period is considered to be from 1870-1890. In America, the periods run about a decade later, so Eastlake style furniture was most popular from 1880-1900.
This particular piece can be dated between 1890-1900. There are a few clues that let us know the approximate date.
Circular Saw Marks:
The saw markings on the wood in this piece of furniture tell us that the piece was built after 1860 when circular saws were invented. Anything prior to 1860 will show straight line marks indicating the use of a handsaw. Check drawer surfaces and larger pieces to look for circular saw marks– the back of a furniture piece can be particularly helpful in determining sawing techniques.
The symmetry that we see throughout this piece in both the art and the structure give us a clue that this piece was machine-made in a factory. Anytime you see inconsistencies in art, joins or matching pieces you can assume that the piece was hand cut. The unquestionable proof of this will be covered later in the dovetail section, but even without examining the dovetail it is obvious that this piece is machine cut. Factories that mass-produced Eastlake style furniture popped up in America in 1890 and continued until 1910. This style was massed produced but was short-lived. A factory that produced the earlier Victorian style furniture would have had to completely retool their shop in order to transition to the straight lines of Eastlake.
This is the tale-tell sign of the date of this piece of furniture. The drawers of this piece are joined with a pin and cove dovetail. This joining technique was the very first dovetail for factory manufactured Eastlake furniture. It only lasted 10 years and one can be quite sure that the date of a pin and cove joined Eastlake drawer is between 1890 and 1900.
Once I determine the approximate age of a piece of furniture I begin to look for modifications and repairs.
This particular piece of furniture has several clues of repairs and modifications.
One of the first things that antique furniture buyers look for is original hardware. On the Eastlake furniture the drawer pulls were usually rectangular with some decoration. There are two ways we can tell that this piece does not have its original hardware. One is style. The hardware on this chest has a batwing style drawer pull. Batwing would not have been used with Eastlake furniture. Also, we can look at the screws used in this drawer pull. This hardware has Phillips head screws. Phillips head screws were not invented until 1934 and was not used en mass in furniture making until the mid-1940s.
Drawer Repairs and Additional Supports:
Another place to check for repair is in the drawers. The bottoms of the drawers in Eastlake furniture often break or slide forward and back. This particular piece has glue residue on all the drawer bottoms indicating repairs. In addition, there is an added piece of wood supporting the raised back of this piece with Phillips head screws.
Although this is a beautiful piece of furniture, it does show signs of repair and has some parts, including hardware, that is not original to the piece.
If you enjoy the Eastlake style and are looking for a functional chest that has the charm of the old world, this piece is for you! The most important aspect of a piece of furniture is that it fits the needs of the owner. At $295 this is a great way to experience life 100 years in the past while having an economical solution to a storage problem. It is not necessary for furniture to have all the qualities of a museum grade piece in order to meet the needs of its new owner.
Buying less than perfect period pieces is a great way to “Live for Less so you can Give More to the things in life that really matter.”